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Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Councilman objects to Japan trip

Ginter says two city officials, not four, should go

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - A council member questioned city officials' upcoming trip to sister city Awaji City, Japan, and blocked immediate passage for additional funding.
Council member Ron Ginter, during a regular meeting Monday, said he would not vote for additional funding that would allow four officials to participate, believing the city didn't need to send more than two people.
Finance committee members recommended council appropriate an additional $10,500 to cover the excursion scheduled for April 23-May 1.
The current budget earmarked $12,000 for the trip. However, economic development director Susan Crotty said two extra attendees and higher than expected rates and fares have driven the estimated cost up to $22,500.
A motion to suspend the rules and pass the legislation with an emergency clause failed because Ginter voted against the measure. Six votes were needed for passage and only six council members were at the meeting; Robin Willoughby was absent.
"They have appropriated to send two, and now they want to send four and I don't think that's necessary," Ginter said. "The economy is bad and everyone is talking about money, so I don't think they should go. If everyone else thinks they should go, then OK, but that's my take on it."
The ordinance will be read a second time during council's next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 25.
Council member Jim Harris argued in favor of the trip, saying the journey hasn't been made in nine years. He stressed the importance of meeting with business leaders for future development and nurturing the relationship with the sister city.
Crotty, law director Kraig Noble, council president Dan Hoelscher and mayor Pat McGowan are scheduled to represent the city. McGowan said they would need the ordinance passed as soon as possible to buy airline tickets.
Funding for the trip would be paid from the electric, water, wastewater and refuse funds.
The appropriations ordinance also included funding to cover a new website that will allow online scheduling of all public sports fields and shelter houses in the city. Finance committee members recommended council allow the purchase, estimated at $3,750 to $6,500.
The service, provided by Midnet Media of Minster, would allow coaches of the various leagues in the city to schedule their own games. Residents could use the site to view schedules.
Council members also gave first reading to an ordinance amending the refrigerator law. The original ordinance states no person shall abandon, discard or leave on their property a refrigerator or freezer or any other air-tight container in which a person could get trapped. If stored outdoors, the container must have the door removed.
Council members will consider amending the law to not include refrigerators or freezers that only close with a magnetic strip, which can be pushed open from the inside.
Harris said he has concerns with the amendment, believing small children still could get trapped.
"I just have reservations about it," he said. "Little kids could get in this and they wouldn't know where to push, and it's not that hard to just remove the door."
In other news, personnel director Sue Backs presented to council the city's new website, which also was designed by Midnet Media and will be implemented on Friday.
"This is totally updated," Backs said. "It's easy to use, functional and most importantly, it's easy to maintain."
The site will be a one-stop shop for all city information, including profiles on every city department and official.
Links to various St. Marys websites will be provided and residents can submit anonymous tips, complaints, concerns and requests, which then will be directed to the appropriate departments.
After the site,, is operating, the city will do away with its Facebook page, Backs said.
Electric committee members will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the municipal building.
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Mercer County's unemployment rate jumped 1.4 percent in January from the previous month, but the county maintained its position of having the lowest rate in the state. [More]
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